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Butcher's Crossing - John Williams,
This review is from: Butcher's Crossing (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
I don't know what it is about "westerns", but I love them. I suppose I am just catching-on to whatever the appeal has always been of the wide-open-space, the landscape, the roughness and beauty, the nobility of endeavour, the forging of a new land amid savagery. The romance of it all. And as with all my favourite romances, there're equal parts tragedy. This tells the story of a somewhat naive but experience-hungry youngster who goes in search of life out west, real life out west. He is led to bankroll a buffalo hunt, and a group of four men troop off over the landscape to endure its deprivations in the hope of bringing back glory, and in the young man's case even just experience.
Buthcher's Crossing is a wonderful novel. I haven't read a book this good in some time. Above all, whatever else it is or may be, it's beautiful. A gentle savage tender lump-in-the-throat piece of art. John Williams is a fabulous writer - he reminds me of William Maxwell slightly. He writes simply, but also languorously. It's perfect writing, and it's hard to place why. There's nothing else to it other than the earnest telling of a tale, its tragedies and glories held in the same tonal regard. It speaks volumes about the human spirit in adversity, the lengths of human hope, of delusion, of the nobility of the pioneer spirit. It's, of course, a very sad book at times, but it has that kind of cumulative power that simple yet relentlessly told books have - they drive on into you, regardless.
Now, I know there's a lot of noise about William's Stoner, which is another wonderful book (shame he wrote so few; perfect though each is), but Butcher's Crossing is in my view even a tiny bit better. He writes the kinds of books that dig down into the soil of the human soul and bring up pure gorgeous water.